Mike Murphy

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“Congradulations Spelling Bee winners. I suppose you think that your pretty smart, don’t you? Well, as I have said before, “I know words. I have the best words.” Sure, I have miss pelled some words in my tweets, but they are hard words like ‘councel’ ‘unpresidented’ ‘tapp’ ‘hear by’ and ‘honered.’ You only spelled eazy words to win the contest like ‘auftaktigkeit.’ What is that anyway, the sound a cat makes when it’s gagging up a hairball? Besides, who needs to know spelling when we have compukers to spell rite for us? By the way, here’s another prize for winning the Spelling Bee—an all-expenses paid trip back to Mexico where you came from!!!”

Fake news! Fake news! All the above stuff is not true (as far as I know). It is just another example of the fake news that 50 percent of Americans rate as a “very big problem in the country today” according to the recent Pew Research Center survey.

But hold on just a doggone minute. How do we know that the Pew survey result is not fake news? It very well could be fake news about fake news, right? Even my implication that it could be fake news about fake news could be fake news itself because ... wait. I must stop now, slowly remove my fingers from the keyboard, and take some deep breaths. OK, I’m fine.

I admit that one reason I made up this article’s title was to draw in readers, sort of like clickbait. But another reason is that when I saw the photo of the eight kids crowned as co-champions of the 2019 National Spelling Bee, I could not help but imagine how President Trump would react to it.

In case you have not seen the picture or read the story, here are the names of the 12- to 14-year-old Spelling Bee co-champions: Rishik Gandhasri, Saketh Sundar, Shruthika Padhy, Sohum Sukhatankar, Abhijay Kodali, Christopher Serrao, Rohan Raja, and Erin Howard.

After working through 564 contestants, an exhausting 20 rounds, and using up all the most difficult spelling words available, the Bee director decided to call it quits and name all eight as winners. This was the first time in the history of the Bee that there were more than two co-champions.

Sure seems that they could have supplemented the spelling-word list with the kids’ names since they certainly appear challenging to me. Well, on second thought, that would not have been quite fair to Erin.

Of the Scripps National Spelling Bee finalists this year, 25 of the 50 were South-Asian Americans. Even more impressive is that South-Asian Americans have won the Spelling Bee each of the past 12 years.

Southern Asia consists of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Regarding South-Asia American students’ Spelling Bee success, Shalini Shankar, a professor of anthropology and Asian-American studies at Northwestern University, revealed that many immigrants from South Asia are well-educated, success-driven professionals and they want their kids to be that way too. “Parents invest a lot of their time with their kids,” she said in a CNN interview. “They prioritize education.”

Now, does it sound to you like these folks are playing fair? It just seems to me that parents prioritizing education and spending a lot of time working with their kids on academics is simply, well it’s simply un-American.

What with checking our phones, taking kids to soccer practice, checking phones, taking kids to dance practice, checking phones, checking phones, and checking phones, there simply is not time to work with the kids on academics.

Look at Donald Trump himself. He is very weak at spelling and, from all accounts, spends most of his waking hours sending out short, unintelligible tweets; yet, he is President of the United States!

Does the president prioritize or have any interest in education policy? Obviously not. You never hear him address education issues. He’s more interested in tariffs, trade wars, and making up insulting names.

Besides, does knowing how to spell omphalopsychite, meaning one who stares fixedly at his navel to induce a mystical trance, necessarily indicate professional and financial success in one’s life as he grows up? Apparently, it does.

There are many examples of past Spelling Bee winners who have gone on to higher education and successful careers in science, math, law, medicine, etc.

Rageshree Ramachandran holds both an MD and a Ph.D. from Stanford, which she attended at age 16, and is currently a surgical pathologist at UCSF.

Balu Natarajan, M.D., studied medicine at Northwestern Medical School and has a private practice focused on internal medicine and sports medicine.

Pratyush Buddiga, a Duke University graduate, was a professional poker player from 2011 to 2017 and retired after winning over $6 million. Now he dabbles in cryptocurrency.

In fact, South-Asia American students, Spelling Bee winners or not, are filling up seats at prestigious universities at a rate even exceeding Lori Loughlin’s kids.

In recent years South Asians have been one of the fastest growing immigrant groups in the U.S. with a median annual household income of $100,000—nearly double the median for all U.S. households.

All of this means three things regarding spelling: South-Asia American students will continue to dominate the Spelling Bee. Spelling skill pays. And President Trump is an anomaly — a word which I’d bet money he cannot spell.

Mike Murphy of Pocatello is an award-winning columnist whose articles are syndicated by Senior Wire. He recently published a book titled “Tortoise Crossing – Expect Long Delays,” which is a collection of 100 of his favorite columns. It is available on Amazon.com.